April is here and finally it’s warm enough in the northern hemisphere to contemplate longer stargazing sessions in relative comfort.
This month’s night skies are awash with constellations, with Leo, the Lion, and Ursa Major, the Great Bear, especially dominant. This month also sees our satellite, the Moon, go into conjunction with Jupiter and Saturn, a spectacular “Super Pink Moon” and—perhaps most impressively of all—the rise of the arc of the Milky Way.
Here’s what happening above our heads in April 2021:
1. Crescent Moon, Jupiter and Saturn
When: Just before sunrise on April 6 and 7, 2021
Where to look: southeastern sky
With Jupiter and Saturn having emerged in the pre-dawn skies, you can watch a 31%-lit crescent Moon pass the gas giants on successive mornings if you have a view low to the southeastern horizon.
It will pass 4° from Saturn on 6 April followed by 4.4° from Jupiter on 7 April, with the former close pass taking place in darker skies.
2. Lyrid meteor shower
When: Just before sunrise on April 21/22, 2021
Where to look: all sky
Though active between April 16-25, 2021, the Lyrid meteor shower will this year take place under the watch of a 70%-lit waxing gibbous Moon. That’s not ideal, and means you’ll only see the very brightest “shooting stars” from the expected 10 to 15 meteors per hour.
However, since the chief attraction of the Lyrids is the possibility of a super-bright “fireball,” that’s perhaps not a killer blow. Go out stargazing when it’s really dark—around midnight—and you might see one. Besides, the best chance of seeing “shooting stars” is in the hour before dawn, when the Moon will have set in the west.
3. Beehive Cluster
When: February to May
Where: highest around midnight
An open cluster of stars about 520 light-years distant in the constellation of Cancer, the Beehive Cluster is one of the nearest and best-looking open clusters of stars to the Solar System.
Also known as both Praesepe and M44, it appears as around 60 stars in a pair of binoculars, though a dozen or so stand out.
4. A ‘Super Pink Moon’
When: Moonrise on April 26, 2021
Where to look: low the eastern horizon
A full Moon that coincides (or thereabouts) with the Moon’s perigee—the closest point in the Moon’s monthly orbit that it comes to Earth—is often called a “supermoon.” It’s a result of the Moon’s orbit being slightly elliptical, which make the full Moon sometimes looks slightly larger.
That’s exactly what’s happening tonight, and it will be best viewed at moonrise where you are.
5. Antares and the Moon
When: Just before sunrise on Thursday, April 1, 2021 and on Thursday, April 29, 2021
Where to look: southeastern sky
Look to the southeast horizon before sunrise on these two mornings and you’ll see a waning gibbous Moon about 5° Antares, the brightest star in the constellation of Scorpius, the Scorpion.
Antares is a red supergiant star that will one day explode as a supernova. It’s around 555 light-years distant.
6. The core of the Milky Way
Where: southern night sky
The bright centre of our galaxy is a seasonal event and it helps to know when it’s up. It emerges from the horizon in April, rising around midnight, by mid-June it rises right after sunset, and by July it’s already up after dark.
The further south you travel, the more of our galaxy’s bright core becomes visible.
Times and dates given apply to mid-northern latitudes. For the most accurate location-specific information consult online planetariums like Stellarium and The Sky Live. Check planet-rise/planet-set, sunrise/sunset and moonrise/moonset times for where you are.
Wishing you clear skies and wide eyes.
This article is auto-generated by AlgorithmSource: www.forbes.com